Sensations and brain processes

Behavioral Brain Research 71:157-61 (1995)
A hypothesis on the physiological conditions of consciousness is presented. It is assumed that the occurrence of states of consciousness causally depends on the formation of complex representational structures. Cortical neural networks that exhibit a high representational activity develop higher-order, self-referential representations as a result of self-organizing processes. The occurrence of such states is identical with the appearance of states of consciousness. The underlying physiological processes can be identified. It is assumed that neural assemblies instantiate mental representations; hence consciousness depends on the rate at which large active assemblies are generated. The formation of assemblies involves the activation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor channel complex which controls different forms of synaptic plasticity including rapid changes of the connection strengths. The various causes of unconsciousness (e.g., anaesthetics or brain stem lesions) have a common denominator: they directly or indirectly inhibit the formation of assemblies
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E. Roy John (2001). A Field Theory of Consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition 10 (2):184-213.

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